Over the past several years - since Moneyball was published and new fantasy formats have emerged - interest in prospects has infected even the average baseball fan. While Prospects can inspire hope in a fan base, Beyond the Boxscore's own Scott McKinney demonstrated the immense "bust rate" that plagues even highly regarded minor leaguers. The label of "bust" is thrown around quite liberally, but what are we, as evaluators, trying to quantify by labeling a player as such?
Generally, the term bust is understood to mean failure, but that just leads a subjective standard that is relative to the player in question. Aren't there degrees of failure? Certainly, the failures of Brandon Wood and Andy Marte are easy to identify. They've failed to perform, meet lofty expectations, and really, provide any value to their organizations. Labeling others similarly touted prospects busts isn't as obvious. A handful of players from Baseball America's 2002 list force me to question where we draft the imaginary line. Hank Blalock(#3), Nick Johnson(#13), and Austin Kearns ( #11) have had been extremely valuable to their respective organizations, but for one reason or another, have left a lot to be desired.
Disappointments? Absolutely. Busts? I'm not convinced. These players were each within the top 10% of hitters since 2000. When applying a subjective standard it's difficult to produce consistent results. But, we're only slave to this standard because collectively, we've chosen not to define what we're trying to say.
So, let's draw an objective line. What your determining factor in what constitutes a "bust"?